It’s estimated that between a third and two thirds of pet cats are overweight, depending on the assessment method used. Cats suffer from obesity and diabetes mellitus in ways that are very similar to the obesity and type 2 diabetes found in humans. But can these similarities tell us anything useful about how to tackle these problems in cats or in humans?
By Shenggen Fan, Sivan Yosef, and Rajul Pandya-Lorch
This blog post is the third in a 3-part series accompanying the release of the book Agriculture for Improved Nutrition: Seizing the Momentum, co-edited by Shenggen Fan, Sivan Yosef, and Rajul Pandya-Lorch (co-published by CABI Publishing and IFPRI). The book was launched at a Feb. 28 event at IFPRI headquarters in Washington.
At times, engaging the agriculture sector to improve nutrition seems like an uphill battle. In many countries, agricultural policies tend to favor staple foods like wheat and rice, because these crops have traditionally staved off hunger and famine. Government officials overseeing agriculture and nutrition often work in isolation, with their funding, capacities, and even technical languages obstacles to close collaboration. Against this backdrop, it can be daunting for policymakers to contemplate formulating nutrition-driven agriculture policies and strategies that can be implemented at the national scale.
By Shenggen Fan, Sivan Yosef, and Rajul Pandya-Lorch
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have launched a race to transform our world for the better little more than a decade from now. The goals are idealistic, setting a high bar for every aspect of quality of life, from health and education to gender equality and climate action. SDG2 seeks to eliminate global hunger by 2030. But as we move closer to that deadline, achieving SDG2 seems further away. Recent years have been particularly disheartening, with the number of undernourished people continuing to rise annually. In 2015, there were 784 million hungry people in the world; in 2016, 804 million; and in 2017, the most recent year for which data was available, that number reached 821 million people. Adult obesity also continues to worsen in rich and poor countries alike: More than 1 in 8 adults, or 672 million people around the world, are now considered obese.
This blog is about the weirdness of global trade… and the
lengths (literally) we go for chocolate.
The wrapper on my Marks & Spencer (M&S) valentine chocolates read: “Made with our exclusive British Milk chocolate recipe, Made in
Incredibly, it seemed that a firm in South Africa (SA) was targeting local people with a taste for British chocolate, and somehow M&S
sourced them for sale in the UK!
Was this I wondered another example of fuel miles not being
built into food production costs (see “food miles”), like apples from the Cape or Kenyan flowers at petrol stations?
On the way home yesterday I was musing about the UN summit on non-communicable diseases (NCDs) happening next week. If I was in charge what would I do?
As we are dealing with limited resources in many countries, prevention could achieve more than concentrating on cure. What I’d do about NCDs would be to ban cigarettes and unhealthy foods. At a stroke the risks for many NCDs would be reduced!
Unfortunately (for me that is) I’m not ruling the world, and such total bans are rather unrealistic. However it is true that smoking and obesity stemming partly from poor diets rich in salt, sugar and fats raise the risk for many NCDs and as such should be high on the agenda at the summit.
Pets may be able to negotiate with their owners over what, when and how much they are fed. This is the view of Jon Day of the Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition, based in part on evidence of how human babies “ask” for food before they can talk. Analysing these interactions may help avoid obesity in pets. The paper by Day and his colleagues appears in CABI’s broad-ranging reviews journal, CAB Reviews.
Both pets and babies use begging and finicky eating habits to control what they are given, in a push-pull relationship. Day and his colleagues say that behaviour before, during and after eating all influence the feeder. Cats can self-regulate their diet in the laboratory at a healthy level, suggesting that obesity in the home may be the result of the pet manipulating the feeder, whether intentionally or unintentionally.
Evidence suggests that men are less able to judge levels of hunger in infants than women. There is also wide variation in the ability of pet owners to interpret the behaviour of pets in terms of appetite and “fullness”.
Food refusal is common in infants and is thought to make the caregiver more dependent on the infant, and gaining them more attention. Cats sometimes refuse a food that they have previously eaten without problems, and they too may use feed refusal as a strategy to influence what they are fed, but also more generally to dominate their relationship with their owners.
While begging behaviour is influenced by an animal’s hunger, there may also be elements of conditioned routine and social interaction with the owner that affect how much an animal begs. For example, the extent which a dog will beg depends on whether it can see its owner’s face or eyes.
While there is still more research to be done, it’s probable that at least eight out of ten owners know that their cats are manipulating them over what food they give them, and a better understanding of this may help keep their pets healthier.
The paper, “Do pets influence the quantity and choice of food offered to them by their owners: lessons from other animals and the pre-verbal human infant?” by Jon E.L. Day, Sophie Kergoat and Kurt Kotrschal appears in CAB Reviews: Perspectives in Agriculture, Veterinary Science, Nutrition and Natural Resources 2009 4, No. 042.
We’ve explored obesity in many different forms during the course of this year
and if you’re a regular Handpicked reader (enter your email in the box on the
left and click on ‘subscribe’ to become one if you’re not already), you’ll by
now be well aware of a recurring theme in our nutrition posts. Energy. This
thread will doubtless also run through the imminent new CABI product
Environmental Impact (plug, plug), where I hope the loose ends help the experts
tie the information in nice, concise and user-friendly packages as opposed to a
confused mess of knots.